Anxiety is one of the most common emotional challenges of aging and is often associated with depression according to Dr. Chris Votolato, Director of Behavioral Health at Shell Point Retirement Community. Anxiety induces a physiological state that is very similar to fear, and affects one’s entire wellbeing; however, it does not have a specific, concrete, external object as does fear. For example, we are not afraid of a rattlesnake in our living room, but we are anxious about an upcoming talk we have to give. Anxiety is produced by a vague, distant, or unrecognized danger. You feel anxious about “losing control,” or feel that “something bad will happen.”
What can you do? Managing anxiety is, in principle, easy. First, anxiety is treated by reducing physiological reactivity, eliminating avoidance behavior, and changing what we say to ourselves or how we think about events/situations. Here are a few ideas to manage anxiety that involve distraction and may induce relaxation, which can reduce the physiological components of anxiety.
- Exercise, which includes walking, bicycle riding, canoeing, exercise classes
- Leisure activities such as reading, gardening, music, poetry, journal writing, drawing, crafts or painting
- Invite a friend to a local attraction such as a nature preserve, swamp tour, out to lunch, shopping, or a special scenic trip
- Volunteer, treat yourself to a massage at the spa, flowers, or an enrichment class
- Invest time in your spiritual growth through prayer, meditation or church activities
Treatment of disorders of anxiety may involve not only self-help, but also professional consultation. If you feel that you cannot manage your anxiety or if you have tried to go it alone without good success, contact your personal physician or a behavioral health specialist.